"If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” – Hillel
Over the past year, human rights advocates and policy experts alike have warned of the growing plight of refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis triggered in the Middle East. And over the past few weeks, headlines finally began to reflect this desperate reality.
Stories on the human toll of the refugee crisis abound. Laith Majid in tears clutching his two children just off the Greek Island of Kos. Drowned three-year-old Aylan Kurdi on the shores of Turkey. A truckload of more than 70 refugees die of heatstroke in Austria.
The number of displaced people in the world today is the highest number since World War II at 60 million people. Currently there are four million Syrian refugees who have escaped war and dire living conditions and an additional seven million Syrian citizens currently displaced within their country’s borders. The European Union’s (EU) border agency has said more than half a million migrants have arrived at the EU's borders this year, a massive influx nearly double the number from 2014, with origins ranging throughout Africa and the Middle East.
Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B'nai B'rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
If it is September, we are receiving calendars in the mail from our synagogues, organizations or supermarkets because Jewish life revolves around the calendar. It is filled with holiday information, recipes and how-to guides to bring observances to your home or synagogue. This is the outline for our Jewish life cycle. The calendar also is the life cycle of organizations, such as B’nai B’rith.
These events are available to be part of your life too. Each month brings an opportunity to be part of the activities that are planned, whether you can attend in person or learn more about the subject by viewing the on-line story available on the B’nai B’rith website or newsletters.
B’nai B’rith regions and districts and community lodges and units, plan activities that provide social activity and lectures featuring experts on interesting subjects and issues that are important to the Jewish people such as Israel and events in the Middle East. The program planners include fund-raising events such as goods and services auctions, golf outings or a tribute dinner or brunch for a community leader.
Community service events are planned, again, with a look at the calendar to connect with the needs in the community, both for Jewish people in need as well as the general community or for veterans, seniors and sick and needy children. With names such as Schlep Sunday, Operation Brotherhood, Pinch-hitters, Project H.O.P.E., these programs have become representative of the tradition of service in our organization, as the community knows it can count on this activity. It also offers members and supporters an opportunity to do a good deed as volunteers. Individuals look forward to being a part of these programs, not only for the good it does for others, but for the benefit of those who perform this service for those in need.
Holocaust remembrance is on the list of programs that find their place in programming planning, with potential commemoration dates. One is Yom Hashoah, the 27 of Nissan, chosen by the Israeli Knesset to be the Day of Remembrance and a more recent addition, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day selected by the United Nations for its observance on Jan. 27. Another Holocaust related anniversary observed is the commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which is observed Nov. 9 and 10. It commemorates the horrifying attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria in 1938 when at least 96 Jews were killed, more than 1,000 synagogues were set on fire, nearly 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, and countless community centers, libraries and homes were attacked, looted and destroyed. About 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps during this time.
As programs are established, we see the structure of a program year take shape, from planning to implementation. For those programs already part of our year, we see what date will work best and check with community calendars to avoid conflicts with other organizations or find new partners for our programming. We also look for unmet needs and see how we can fill those with a new program that we can bring to the community.
We evaluate each program held the previous year to determine if it was successful or whether there is a change needed. Events can be held monthly, quarterly or annually. The Henry Monsky Lodge in Omaha, Neb. could win a most programs planned a year award, as it holds a weekly luncheon, featuring guest speakers on a variety of topics, offered as a place to lunch and learn about something of interest each week along with other special events in the community.
Audiences are identified, with specific program activity such as the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership Network planning its calendar in cities around the world, with activity dedicated to reaching out to young professionals age 22 -40 in a community with social, service and issue oriented programming.
And while you have your calendars in front of you—see the world of programming in action: join us at the annual B’nai B’rith International Policy Forum, Nov. 8-10 and a pre-forum Young Leadership Conference (Nov. 6-8) in Washington, D.C. for a showcase of programs connected to B’nai B’rith.
Click below to register:
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B'nai B'rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B'nai B'rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B'nai brith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. This June will mark her 38th anniversary at B'nai B'rith. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Who isn’t a Mayim Bialik fan? It’s tough not to be impressed by a woman whose deftly deadpan antics as The Big Bang Theory’s Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, a Ph.D. neuroscientist, are informed by her real life education as a Ph.D. neuroscientist.
To learn more about her, legions of devotees—seemingly of all demographics and faiths--are logging on to her new website Groknation.com, a name referencing the 1960s cult science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Bialik writes about all aspects of her multi-layered life, from her Jewish background and love of Israel, to parenting, the arts, and her special vegan diet.
Readers may be surprised by the frankness of Bialik’s posts, the most recent focusing on the ways in which her adherence to Jewish ritual became a source of comfort after her father’s death:
“Life goes on; it has to. But saying Kaddish every day has allowed me to step out of the ‘life goes on’ part of my day to enter a sanctuary (literally!) where I again am a mourner, and I feel again that life can’t go on because it’s OK to feel that way. It’s healthy to hold that tension in your brain. Grief is dissecting life going on from life not going on again and again.”
And… no, Bialik will not divulge anything about Amy’s response to Sheldon’s Big Bang proposal on the site—unless you don’t like to laugh, you’ll just have to catch the season premiere.
Join the crowds coming downtown to New York’s glitzy new Whitney Museum of American Art for a look at 29 year old Rachel Rose’s prize-winning works during her solo show from Oct. 2, 2015 to Feb. 7, 2016 in its Kaufman Gallery, where her installation “will physically engage with the architecture of the museum’s new building.”
Educated at Columbia, Yale and London’s Courtauld Institute of Art as an art historian and painter, Rose became known for using innovative materials like gel and transparent plastic paper to produce brilliantly colored, glistening forms suggestive of biological organisms or marine animals.
Fusing the conceptual and the sensual, her critically acclaimed videos, including A Minute Ago and Sitting Feeding Sleeping, are thoroughly original constructions bringing together film clips--from sources including YouTube, vintage movies and the artist’s own footage of zoo animals--that address big questions about life and death, and explore the sometimes uneasy relationships between nature, culture and advanced technology.
Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B'nai B'rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
If you were retired and living in an apartment community, would you want to live in a building totally isolated from your neighbors, or would you want to live in a vibrant community with a wide variety of programs and activities? Wouldn’t you want to live where you and your neighbors get to know one another, and are able to provide one another with mutual support through the good times and bad?
Luckily, in the B’nai B’rith Senior Housing network, a dedicated group of resident volunteers makes sure it is the latter, through their individual buildings’ “Residents Council” or “Association.”
The membership of each Residents Council is comprised of all the residents in that particular building. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Council is the voice in the community, and acts a liaison between management and the residents, as well as between the residents and the general neighborhood. Another significant role for every Council is to create programming and activities for the tenants. The Councils develop and carry out programs which they feel will improve the social and economic status of their residents.
Moreover, the Council truly enhances the “quality of life” in their respective housing developments, creating a sense of community, shared responsibility and inspiring residents to have a feeling of civic pride in their homes. A key part of this is involving all members in the planning and execution of activities, whether it is an ice cream social or a senior prom.
Senior housing communities that have a well functioning Residents Council, besides just benefiting the residents, also will have benefits for management. Working together on solving community problems allows management to have a better, more satisfying relationship with their tenants, creating a sense of respect instead of mutual distrust. Management can work with the Council to combat problems that affect all residents, such as residents propping open outside doors, people not cleaning up after their dogs, or any other issues that can impact people living in such close proximity in congregate housing. Although not required, HUD is very supportive of each Residents Council in all HUD subsidized buildings.
Recognizing how important these associations are for the tenants, Mark Olshan, Ph.D., director of the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, created a program almost 30 years ago to provide training for these resident leaders of the B’nai B’rith buildings. The first Resident Leadership Retreat took place over three days. Over time, staff realized that it was such a wonderful opportunity, and with so much to learn, the retreat was eventually expanded to six days.
Scenes from previous Resident Leadership Retreats.
The retreat takes place every other summer at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp, located in the scenic mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, and is open to two residents from each of our U.S. and Canadian housing communities. One of the best parts of the program is that the retreat takes place while the young campers are still there.
The retreat features a variety of workshops conducted by staff from the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services including: how to run a tenants’ association, how to plan activities and programs for their fellow residents, how to recruit and retain volunteers, how to write newsletters and ideas to celebrate the diversity in our buildings. Sessions also provide icebreakers encouraging participants to network and learn from one another. A highlight of the camp experience is the opportunities for intergenerational activities with the elementary through high school population at camp. These programs include Israeli dancing and singing lessons, Shabbat services and various social events.
But that’s not all. The program is designed to be a memorable experience not just for the seniors who attend, but to be a benefit to all of the residents of our housing communities. Each participant is given the opportunity to learn skills so that when they go back to their buildings, they are able to make a difference in the lives of their fellow residents with a strong Residents Association.
In early August, 36 residents will be attending the next Resident Leadership Retreat. Hear from residents who took part in the 2013 retreat:
Janel Doughten is the associate director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services, focusing on the subsidized senior housing program. She has been with B’nai B’rith for 23 years, and looks forward to leading the 15th Resident Leadership Retreat later this year. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
“The Disaster Relief Fund is open and needs support. Help us be ready by donating to the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/bbi-disaster-relief.”
You may have seen that sentence in a news release or an appeal from B’nai B’rith. In a recent two month period, the fund was opened to support assistance to victims of flooding in Texas and the earthquake in Nepal.
Technically, the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund is always open—we gratefully accept donations to our general disaster fund that are not designated for a specific disaster, because we know that there is no date on the calendar to plan for when these natural disasters occur. Disasters that are man-made, such as terrorist attacks, will occur with no science to understand them.
Since the mid 1800s, B’nai B’rith got involved in responding to disasters with the creation of our Disaster Relief Fund. Domestically and across the globe, the fund provides money to assist victims of a disaster via partners in the community or for the first responders who travel there to provide their expertise for the emergency.
The impact of any disaster is devastating, but a disaster hitting poor, heavily populated areas makes the devastation more devastating as much of these locations already have overloaded services that are dealing with the underserved population.
B’nai B’rith is ready to respond once a disaster occurs. A committee comprised of volunteer leaders and staff reviews the information about the disaster that has occurred and determines the need to allocate funds. An appeal is made for donations to enable our response. We receive requests for funding assistance from local community leaders, or we seek out partners in the area that has been impacted.
We dedicate much of our response to “unmet needs,” which may not have already been provided by others. We also know that there are phases of a disaster that will meet our criteria, at the beginning of the emergency, during recovery efforts and finally, rebuilding.
Long after a disaster has been in the headlines, there is need for assistance. Some distributions are completed in a month, and some have taken up to five years for the project that has been allocated to reach completion.
B’nai B’rith’s history of providing disaster relief is part of our core mission of humanitarian aid. As anniversaries of major disasters come along, we often reflect on the impact of the funds provided by our donors.
For example, in April 1995 the B’nai B’rith Disaster Fund provided scholarships to the children of government workers who were killed in the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City.
Twenty years later, these children are grown, still missing a parent, but they have had assistance with their education by people who cared about them enough to make a donation.
Since that disaster, B’nai B’rith has supported many other projects in the United States and around the world, providing close to $3 million in assistance projects.
The B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund is always open.
We cannot predict the future or know where help will be needed, but you can help us be ready to respond today.
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B'nai B'rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B'nai B'rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B'nai B'rith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. This June will mark her 38th anniversary at B'nai B'rith. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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